Physical activity is an essential part of overall health and wellness, but the unfortunate truth is that exercising and sports always come with a certain degree of injury risk. Many different possible injuries can happen to your lower limbs, but a common one we treat here at Advanced Foot and Ankle is Achilles tendinitis
The Achilles Tendon
Your body relies on a system of connective tissues to join everything together and promote movement. Muscles are connected to bones through tendons, which like elastic bands allow muscles to pull on the bones and make movement possible. The Achilles tendon is one of the most important tendons in your body; it makes up part of your calf muscle (the gastrocnemius) and connects this to your heel bone (calcaneus).
This tendon is responsible for controlling the movement of your foot downwards in what's called plantar flexion, which involves the action of pointing your toes. The tendon is an important part of the biomechanics of walking – it acts to store energy during one leg's stride, releasing this energy for the next step. It helps to stabilize the back, legs, and feet during this movement. The Achilles also absorbs some of the force that is inflicted on your body from high-impact activities as well.
How Achilles Tendinitis Develops
With its pivotal placement and essential uses, it is not surprising that this powerful tendon can be implicated in several different types of injuries, most prominently Achilles tendinitis. This is an inflammatory condition that occurs when something triggers your immune system to attack the tendon. In other words, microtears in the tendon set off a cascade of events that cause irritation and pain, sometimes swelling and other symptoms depending on the type of Achilles tendinitis.
The most common trigger for this injury is overuse. If you've been increasing the frequency or intensity of physical activity below your body's current level of conditioning, you're more likely to suffer this fate. There are several reasons why the Achilles is especially vulnerable during these stressful situations; its ability to store energy can be compromised by new levels of stress that tax the tendon too much. It also contains very few blood vessels (which means healing can be slow) and is situated in a precarious spot that feels the full brunt of forces your body encounters during activity.
Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendinits
Achilles tendinitis tends to develop gradually and may start with a mild ache or stiffness. This can be accompanied by tenderness at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches to your heel bone. As the injury develops further, you may notice swelling and bruising around this area.
Who is Most Likely to Develop Achilles Tendinitis
It should come as no surprise that runners are especially at risk for Achilles tendon injuries since they tend to rely heavily on this tendon during their sport. Other types of athletes running sports may encounter these problems as well, especially other fast-paced track and field athletes such as soccer players.
Even sitting too much has been shown to contribute to this injury, most likely because it diminishes the normal stresses that are placed on this tendon. This injury can also develop in older people, whose tendons naturally lose some of their elasticity with time.
Who is Most Likely to Develop Achilles Tendinitis
With so many possible causes for Achilles pain, there is no single foolproof way to prevent this condition from ever occurring. But by managing your training levels and taking care of your body, you can do a lot to ensure it doesn't happen. It's important to pay attention to the warning signs and always err on the side of caution when pushing yourself: it may be better to take a day off than risk further damage.
Everyday factors such as your footwear and even the condition of the ground you're running on can have a huge impact too. Using custom orthotics or appropriate footwear while working out is important, while even the best shoes may need to be replaced after a certain amount of use. In some cases, using ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling, although these treatments should not be relied on exclusively and you should always check with your doctor first before taking any medication
Professional Treatment for Achilles Tendon Injuries
We hope that you can prevent a case of Achilles tendinitis by using the above preventative measures, but Advanced Foot and Ankle can provide effective treatment if you sustain the injury. Find out more by calling our office in Twin Falls or Burley. If you need professional care for any lower limb issue, be sure to request your appointment with us over the phone or online today.
Are You Looking for Expert Foot Care in Twin Falls, ID?
If you are looking for foot care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online our Twin Falls office at 208.731.6321.